Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 27

It's crunch time in MLS as clubs throughout the league continue to fight for Audi MLS Cup Playoffs seeding.

Here's this week's edition of 27 takeaways, one observation on every MLS team coming off all the action in Week 27.

There’s no time to dwell on their defeat to the Philadelphia Union as Atlanta now face a massive game against an Inter Miami team hot on their heels. I’m certain they’re still headed in the right direction and will prove that the loss to the Union was just a minor blip.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

Austin FC finally kept a clean sheet and managed to get three points to give their tremendous supporters something to smile about on the way home. It was a complete team performance, with Moussa Djitte standing out for his relentless running, link-up play and ability to turn and cause havoc.

The positive is that Chicago got a point against a good Nashville team while having the majority of the possession and creating some promising situation. The negative is that they failed to score again for the fourth time in five games.

When a team has a poor season, it’s inevitable that changes will be made and that’s what FC Cincinnati have done with Jaap Stam's departure. It’s now a case of just getting through the season while laying the groundwork for 2022 and beyond. On a personal note, I’m thrilled to see what my friend and former teammate Tyrone Marshall does with this opportunity.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Colorado fans would have expected to win against Toronto FC, especially at home. It’s another case of two points dropped for a team that has tied five of their last six games. With that said, 11 unbeaten is nothing to scoff at and they’re still within touching distance of the West's top spot but will need to turn some draws into wins to hold off this relentless Portland Timbers team.

Columbus got the Gyasi Zardes they'll need the rest of the way if they're to achieve their goals. He’s had a stop-start year but looked fit, fresh and hungry as he led the defending MLS Cup champions to a huge three points. They don’t need him to score left-footed screamers from 25 yards every week, but they'll need him to lead the line and be a consistent goal threat from here on out.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

FC Dallas get one more chance to ensure that September isn’t a winless month for them. It won’t be easy as they welcome a Sporting KC team with championship aspirations. A root cause of their issues has been their defending – they’ve given up a conference-high 44 goals.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

Paul Arriola gave us a huge reminder of what he can do when fully fit and in form. When he plays like this, he may be the key to making a third-place finish a very realistic aim for D.C. United.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Houston played well enough to win at the weekend but in the end, it was another case of what could have been had they taken their chances. They're winless away from home all year, as this was their eighth road defeat in 14 matches.

LAFC were beaten by San Jose mostly due to easily avoidable defensive errors. With eight games to go, it’s looking like anything less than four wins, plus the return of a fully fit and sharp Carlos Vela, won’t be enough to make the postseason.

All of a sudden, a team that spent the first part of the season entertaining first place in the West is in serious danger of potentially missing the playoffs altogether unless they can recapture some momentum. Seven games since their last clean sheet tells part of LA's story, and defeat against RSL would see them fall beneath their opponents in the table – depending on other results, they could end midweek as low as seventh.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

If Miami are going to make the playoffs, they’re going to have to do it the hard way since they play their next four games away from home. It’s during this sort of stretch when you need your big players to take it up another level. Anything short of that, and Miami will be left firmly on the outside looking in by the time they play in front of their own fans again.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Minnesota seem to have found their groove again. Ozzie Alonso isn’t what he once was but he has offered them good protection in front of the back four and increased their passing ratio in the past two games where they’ve scored five goals and kept two clean sheets.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

Put simply, CF Montréal's season rests on these next three games. All at home, all against good teams with something to play for. Rarely do you get the chance to have three home games right when you need them, so it’s imperative they take full advantage and go for nine points. If they can do that, they almost certainly ensure their playoff spot.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville need about three wins to all but guarantee a second-place finish in the East, which would be a monumental achievement and well-deserved. They can take a big step towards that by knocking off both Orlando and NYCFC this week. Defensively, they continue to excel as they recorded their third clean sheet in the last six.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

The numbers are starting to get ridiculous – 19 wins is absurd. That’s eight more than the next best in the East. New England have that exceptional ability of being able to win when not at their best and that’s why they're currently by far the best team in the league and could break the regular-season points record.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

Not a good week for NYCFC as they came out second-best against their rivals. With Philadelphia applying pressure for that third seed, they must get something at Chicago, and then they’ll get to test themselves against Nashville. Anything less than four points this week and they’ll need to start worrying about falling outside of the playoff spots.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Four points from two derby games makes for a good week. Technically, RBNY can still make the playoffs as long as they get a lot of help from others and finally find the consistency that has eluded them all year long. It’s a big ask, and the margin for error is slim to none, but they have no choice but to give everything and go for it.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Orlando have lost four in a row and have given a window of opportunity to those beneath them. There’s a very real chance that they slip out of the playoff positions by the time this week is up if they don’t tighten up at the back. They’re the only team with a negative goal differential in the East's top eight.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia appear to be hitting form at just the right time as they got a massive win against Atlanta to put them within reach of NYCFC. Six of their last nine are away from home so they’ll need to be an excellent road team from here on out, starting with the trip to RBNY this Wednesday.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Portland were sensational at the weekend as they dismantled RSL. Sebastian Blanco’s return isn’t the only reason they’re rolling right now, but it's a big reason. He’s been very quick to recapture some of the 2020 form he had before going down with the knee injury, and with everyone else around him also playing at a high level, this is a team that absolutely nobody will want to face in the playoffs.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL have to get over the weekend very quickly as they're in a seven-team race for the fourth through seventh spots in the West. It’s still in their own hands but conceding 18 goals in the last six is a serious cause for concern and must be addressed right away.

It’s still the Chofis show in San Jose, as he recorded a goal and an assist in their win over LAFC. There’s no time to celebrate the win though since the Sounders come to town in a game that's a must-win to keep the playoff dream alive.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

If you want to know why Seattle have been so successful since day one, the win at Sporting KC had all the ingredients that run through the organization's DNA – bravery, togetherness and efficiency to name a few. They seem to always find exactly what they need when they need it, and to get this kind of win after the midweek Leagues Cup disappointment speaks volumes to their character.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

Sporting don’t need me to tell them this but you simply can’t make the kind of mistakes they made against a team like the Sounders. Five of their remaining eight games will be away from home so they’re going to have to be almost flawless to secure the West's top seed.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

A draw against a good Colorado team to go with last week's win over Nashville does a lot of good for morale in the short term. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s very hard to ignore how poor of a season Toronto have endured. To win just four of their 26 games is so distant from the standards they’ve set in years past that it’s hard to fathom.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

A very good and much-needed win for a team doing just enough to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot. Maxime Crepeau was the hero, as he saved two points and kept Vancouver within a win of the red line.